Felony Murder: A Charge that is Gaining Traction in Michigan

In the state of Michigan, there are three main murder charges, and the defense of such is as tricky as any charge could be. The three flavors of murder are First Degree Murder, Second Degree Murder, and Felony Murder. Today, we will discuss the concept of Felony Murder and explain how some counties frequently look to bring this charge.

In Black’s Law Dictionary, we see that this is a charge that is brought when the death of one occurs during the course or the attempted course of a felony offense. To prove their case, the prosecutor must prove the following elements:

A. The Defendant is the proximate cause of death.
B. The Defendant intention to kill, cause great bodily harm, or created an extremely high risk of death.
C. When the Defendant did the act that caused the death, the Defendant was committing or attempting to commit a particular felony.
D. The killing was not justified, excused, or done under circumstances that would reduce it to a lesser crime.

To learn more about felony murder, we sat down with 3 of the top criminal defense attorneys in the state of Michigan to provide a commentary into the charge.

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates and is known for having the top criminal defense firm in the state of Michigan. When asked about felony murder, Grabel stated, “The charge has a broad view. We find that someone that is aiding and abetting in the commission of a felony with no intent to kill anyone can be charged with this crime. We also see that the transferred intent doctrine comes into play more frequently than most would realize. In Michigan, if a felony is committed with no mens rea to murder if could still lead to a life offense.”

William Amadeo is a partner at McManus and Amadeo in Ann Arbor, Michigan and a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates. Amadeo has developed a reputation as the top criminal defense lawyer in Washtenaw County, and when asked about Felony Murder, he stated, “Michigan has expanded the charge beyond the norm. In most states, such as New Jersey (where Amadeo is also licensed), we see a narrow list of crimes that could lead to the life offense. In our state, simple larceny that results in one’s death could lead someone to live in prison without a good criminal defense lawyer. Michigan’s felony murder statute is one of the broadest in the United States.”

Ravi Gurumurthy is known as one of the top criminal defense attorneys in the Northern part of Michigan. When asked his take on the crime, Gurumurthy stated, “The charge is heavily depended upon what county you live in. In Western Michigan, we do not see a lot of these charges, but in the northern part of the state, we find it charged with frequency. Most lawyers are not equipped to handle such a charge, so the selection of defense counsel is critical when viewing the defense of felony murder.”

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